WASHINGTON — Hours after a mob of violent Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a display that shocked leaders around the world, Congress reconvened and counted the electoral votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
After some objections, Biden crossed the 270 vote threshold needed to win shortly after 3:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Senate rejected a Republican objection to the results in Arizona by a lopsided vote of 93-6, and the House rejected an Arizona objection 303-121. An objection to Pennsylvania’s results also failed in both chambers and counting resumed at around 3:30 am.
The riots, which left a woman fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer, had interrupted debate in both chambers about the Republican objection to the Arizona results.
In reconvening the Senate after order had been restored, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the nation’s government had faced down greater threats than what he called an “unhinged crowd.”
“I want to say to the American people: The United States Senate will not be intimidated,” McConnell said.
The senators who voted in favor of the Arizona objection were Ted Cruz of Texas; Josh Hawley of Missouri; John Kennedy of Louisiana; Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi; Roger Marshall of Kansas; and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
After the Arizona votes, in a joint session, representatives raised objections about some other states — but they were not entertained because senators either withdrew or did not sign on. There was applause as each objection fell by the wayside.
Then came Pennsylvania. Hawley signed on to an objection for the state, which sent both chambers to debate early Thursday morning. It was rejected.
It was an unforgettable day in Washington as lawmakers were forced to pause the official count of the Electoral College votes and flee when Trump’s followers stormed the building. A woman was shot inside the Capitol and died later, the National Guard was activated and the mayor ordered a 12-hour curfew in the city that began at 6 p.m.
In addition to the woman who was shot, three other adults died after separate medical emergencies in the area around the Capitol grounds, said the Washington, D.C., police chief.
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When they reconvened, the House and Senate had picked up where they left off hours earlier — debating a Republican objection to the results in Arizona. But the chaos of the day appeared to leave a searing impression among lawmakers, including some Republicans who dropped their objections to counting Biden electors as a result, even as others gave no indication they would back down.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who had previously said he planned to object to counting Biden electors unless a commission was formed to audit the results, conceded Wednesday evening that his effort would fail.
Lankford had been in the middle of his speech supporting the objection against counting Arizona’s electoral college vote when the Capitol was breached and lawmakers had to be whisked to safety.
“Obviously, the commission that we’ve asked for is not going to happen at this point, and I understand that,” he said. “And we’re headed towards tonight — towards the certification of Joe Biden, who will be the president of the United States.”
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., an appointed senator who lost her election runoff Tuesday night, said that she had intended to object to Biden electors but that “the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider” and that she “cannot in good conscience” follow through.
Loeffler nonetheless doubled down on the false claims that there were “last-minute changes” and “serious irregularities” in the election, seemingly justifying her plans to object to the process. Her colleagues applauded after she finished her remarks.
But Hawley, the first senator to announce his plans to object to the counting of votes, defended his intentions and later objected to Pennsylvania.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump ally and frequent golfing partner, said Biden was lawfully elected, and it’s time to accept that.
“Count me out. Enough is enough,” he said. “We’ve got to end it.”
Electoral College votes began being officially counted Wednesday at 1 p.m. in a joint session of Congress, where Republican allies of Trump began to object to the votes’ being counted from numerous states that Biden won despite pushback from McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence.
The first objection, to Arizona’s vote, took place minutes into the proceeding, as Trump-supporting protesters, egged on by the president, descended on the Capitol. After the protesters breached the Capitol steps and began to clash with police, parts of the building were placed on lockdown, the congressional tally was paused and Pence was taken to a secure location.
The chaos began as the House and the Senate separately debated the objection.
Demonstrators could be seen from the third floor walking past barricades up to the building, where Capitol Police officers began running into the hallways and shouting at staff to get away from the windows, saying rioters had breached the building, and they should take cover.
Shouting could be heard several floors down. Senate staff members then began locking the doors to the Senate chamber. A recording then began playing announcing that there was a security threat inside the building and that people should take shelter. Senators were taken to a secure location.
“The scene that we saw on Capitol Hill, the banging, the yelling, the screaming, the demands to enter the chamber of the United States Congress — those are the sorts of things that happen in third-world nations,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.
Before the vote count, Trump urged thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to head to the Capitol to make sure their “voices are heard.” Trump, who has falsely claimed he won the election, spoke for over an hour before the violence broke out.
He repeatedly urged Pence, who had been presiding over the vote count, to throw out states’ votes or somehow send them back to the states, which he does not have the power to do.
“Mike Pence has to come through for us,” he said. “If he doesn’t that will be a sad day for our country.”
In a statement sent as Trump was still speaking, Pence indicated that he would not join Trump’s effort.
In response, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the day would be “a stain on our country, not so easily washed away,” and he called Trump “undoubtedly our worst” president in history.
Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., circulated a letter among colleagues urging Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare Trump unfit for office, which could lead to his early removal.
In all, over a dozen Republican senators and 100 House members had been expected to object to results from up to six states, even though those votes have been certified by the states and Trump’s legal challenges have been dismissed by numerous courts.
Electors already cast their votes on Dec. 14, and Biden, who got 7 million more votes than Trump, won 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump.
The objections had been expected to fail because majorities of both chambers must vote to sustain an objection. If one chamber votes to toss out a state’s votes and the other does not, the objection is dismissed.
The Democrats have a majority in the House and can block any objection, and while Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, dozens of Republican senators have already said they would not back their colleagues’ effort.